The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo
Presently before the Court are Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 20) and Plaintiff Annette M. Martz's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 21). The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's decision. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will adopt the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and overrule Plaintiff's Objections. Accordingly, Plaintiff's appeal will be denied.
Plaintiff Annette M. Martz was ten (10) years old and in fourth grade at the time of her April 24, 2006 hearing before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Report & Recommendation, Doc. 20, at 5.) Through her mother, Plaintiff filed an application for child's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on November 10, 2003, alleging she is disabled by a learning disorder and seizure disorder. Her application was denied initially, and denied again after a June 2005 hearing before an ALJ. After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, she sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), but the case was remanded because the tape from the hearing was inaudible. After a second hearing in April 2006, the ALJ again denied Plaintiff's claim and the Appeals Council again denied her request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Plaintiff again sought review before the Magistrate Judge, who issued a Report and Recommendation (Doc. 20), recommending that Plaintiff's Complaint be denied. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and Recommendation, which have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.
I. Review of Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation
Where objections to the magistrate judge's report are filed, the Court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions of the report, Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C)), provided the objections are both timely and specific, Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In making its de novo review, the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Although the review is de novo, the statute permits the Court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v. United States Parole Comm'n, 849 F. Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the Court should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998).
II. Review of Commissioner's Findings
The Commissioner's factual findings must be deemed conclusive unless the reviewing court finds they are not supported by substantial evidence. Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 704 (3d Cir. 1981). Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Substantial evidence is less than a large or considerable amount of evidence; it only requires enough relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support a conclusion. Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999). Evidence is not substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence. Kent v. Schweiker, 710 F.2d 110, 114 (3d Cir. 1983).
III. Defining "Disability" for Purposes of SSI Eligibility
A child under the age of eighteen (18) is considered disabled for purposes of SSI eligibility if that child "has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). A three (3) step test determines whether a child is disabled. First, Plaintiff must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity. Second, Plaintiff must have a physical or mental impairment that is severe.
Third, the prong on which Plaintiff Martz's claim failed, the child's impairment must meet, medically equal, or functionally equal, the "listings," which are descriptions of "impairments that cause marked and severe functional limitations." 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.924(a), 416.925(a). For a child's impairment to "functionally equal" a listing, it must be "of listing-level severity," meaning "it must result in 'marked' limitations in two domains of functioning or an 'extreme' limitation in one domain." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). The six "domains" of functioning to be considered are: (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending to and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and manipulating objects; (5) ability to care for oneself; and (6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1).
An impairment has a "marked" limitation in a domain if it "interferes seriously with [the child's] ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2). An impairment causes an "extreme" limitation in a domain if it "interferes very seriously with [the child's] ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities," but ...